Why Gen Z, millennials are turning to ‘side jobs’ to stay afloat

Deloitte’s 2024 Gen Z and Millennial Survey spotlights two generations of workers grappling with pressure: financial insecurity, high stress levels and mounting climate anxiety. According to Elizabeth Faber, Deloitte’s global chief people and purpose officer, they are also considering how rapidly evolving technology like generative AI will impact their jobs and longer-term career decisions. These stresses affect their career choices.

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Among the most interesting findings of the global research—which surveyed nearly 23,000 respondents across 44 countries—is that a decent percentage of Gen Zs and millennials are likely to take on part- or full-time paying “side jobs” in addition to their primary jobs. About 45% of Gen Zs and 36% of millennials in this year’s survey say they have side jobs ranging from selling products or services online to flexible “gig” work like ridesharing or food delivery, pursuing artistic ambitions or working in a restaurant or retail job, among others.

The rise of side jobs among Gen Zs and millennials

The survey found that the top reason Gen Zs and millennials work side jobs is to relieve financial pressures. This is not surprising, given that the survey finds that the cost of living is their top concern for the third year running. Plus, more than half of both generations live paycheck-to-paycheck.

“Employers have an important role to play here, as they have the ability and responsibility to support the financial wellbeing of their employees, particularly during uncertain times,” Faber explains.

Faber adds that the “side hustle” has some upsides for Gen Zs and millennials, such as allowing them to monetize a hobby, develop new skills and relationships, and positively impact their community.

“Employers should be mindful of this as it will likely require offering flexibility so that employees have time to pursue their passions outside of work,” she says. “Ultimately, this is an important way for organizations to support their employees’ wellbeing and growth.”

What Gen Zs and millennials want from work

Especially in light of the prevalence of side jobs, work/life balance remains the top priority for both Gen Zs and millennials when choosing an employer. Maintaining a positive work/life balance is also the top thing they admire in their peers, well above other traditional success markers such as titles and material possessions.

That has yielded mixed results for return-to-office policies, with some Gen Zs and millennials reporting benefits like improved engagement and collaboration, while others are experiencing increased stress and decreased productivity.

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Stress levels and mental health continue to be a concern, although there are some signs of improvement. Only about half of respondents rate their mental health as good or extremely good. And up to 40% of Gen Zs and 25% of millennials say they feel stressed all or most of the time (down from 46% and 39%, respectively, in 2023). While work is a big driver of this unease, respondents emphasize their finances and the health and welfare of their families as the top contributors to stress.

While employers need to focus on meeting the mental health needs of Gen Zs and millennials, they also should prioritize how they’re helping their workforce connect to the meaning of their work. Nearly nine in 10 Gen Zs and millennials say purpose is important to their job satisfaction, and they are increasingly likely to turn down work or employers that don’t align with their values.

“Gen Zs and millennials expect a lot from their employers and from business more broadly,” Faber says. She adds that what they are asking for is what most employees in the workforce, regardless of age, likely want: meaningful work within purpose-driven organizations, the flexibility to balance work and personal priorities, supportive workplaces that foster better mental health, and opportunities to learn and grow in their careers.

“Employers who work to get these things right will have a more satisfied, productive, engaged and agile workforce—one better prepared to adapt to a rapidly transforming world,” she says.

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].